2015 DRAFT GUIDE
Browns looking to climb from AFC North cellar

By TOM WITHERS - AP Sports Writer
    2013-08-27 14:26

CLEVELAND (AP) - For his entire pro career, Joe Thomas has known nothing but change, misery and losing.

Welcome to Cleveland.

Oh, sure, he's made six straight Pro Bowls with the Browns, earning the reliable and durable left tackle a yearly trip to Hawaii. Thomas, though, would trade all those vacations for one visit to the postseason.

``I want to go the playoffs,'' Thomas said earlier this summer. ``It's no fun playing in the NFL when you're going 4-12 every year. It's just not, it's drudgery.''

Those dreary days could be over.

With a first-year head coach who understands Cleveland's passion, more experienced players and a committed owner in Jimmy Haslam, the Browns appear to be on the verge of turning their fortunes. It's been six years since they had a winning record, and 11 since their last playoff appearance, but Thomas believes the Browns are poised to contend.

And when he closes his eyes, Thomas envisions a wintry day in January near Lake Erie when football, the way it once was in Cleveland, is back.

``I think about the day of me running out of the tunnel for a home playoff game, that's my dream,'' he said. ``That's why I show up every day.''

If the Browns are indeed going to improve, they must gain ground in the rugged AFC North. Cleveland is just 16-50 inside one of the league's toughest divisions and only 5-25 in the past five years.

Here's are five things to watch as Cleveland enters the 2013 season:

CHUD'S IN CHARGE: Like so many kids growing up in Ohio, Rob Chudzinski had his heart broken by the Browns. It's his job to try and fix a few. Cleveland's offensive coordinator in 2007 - when the Browns went 10-6 - Chudzinski takes over the team he rooted for as a youngster and one that has chewed up and spit out coaches at an alarming rate.

Chudzinski, he's ``Chud'' to everyone, is Cleveland's sixth coach since 1999. He spent the past two years as Carolina's offensive coordinator. With the Panthers, he directed a record-breaking offense he hopes to replicate in Cleveland. To assist him, the Browns hired offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive guru Ray Horton, two of the best coordinators on the market with proven track records.

Turner's job is to get the most out of second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has the physical tools and could thrive in an offense designed to his strengths.

RICHARDSON READY TO RUMBLE: His ribs healed and 10 pounds lighter than a year ago, running back Trent Richardson is set for a breakout season - as long as he stays healthy. Richardson rushed for 950 yards as a rookie, when he played more than half the year with two broken ribs.

Richardson lacked the same burst as he had at Alabama, which is part of the reason he slimmed down to 225 pounds. The 23-year-old, who also underwent knee surgery last year, looked terrific in the preseason and credited his improvement to reviewing tapes of how he ran in college and high school. Richardson said it was ``time to get back to the basics.''

In the past, the feature running back in Turner's offense has topped 300 carries, and Richardson is looking forward to doing more ``than running between the tackles'' as he did a year ago.

``I'm looking towards no injury, no broken fingernails, nothing,'' he said. ``I know my whole season is based on being healthy and playing 16 games and hopefully in the playoffs.''

SOUTH IN THE NORTH: Unless they start winning division games, the Browns will stay stuck in the AFC North's basement - their home eight times in 11 years.

Since their return in 1999, the Browns have gone just 16-50 against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati. They've never gone better than 3-3, and that came in their only two winning seasons (2002, 2007) since their expansion rebirth.

The Browns have been competitive inside the division, but losing close games doesn't cut it.

With the Steelers rebuilding, the Ravens losing key contributors from their Super Bowl title team, and the Bengals being, well, the unpredictable Bengals, the Browns could close the gap on their three rivals.

``I think we're making good strides,'' Thomas said. ``But we've got to win games to prove we've made strides.''

WEEDEN'S GROWTH: On a wall inside the Browns' draft room is a list of things the team feels it must do ``On The Path To The Super Bowl.'' Near the top is: ``Have a championship-caliber quarterback.''

Brandon Weeden has this year to show he is one.

Following an up-and-down-and-sideways rookie season, Weeden heads into his second year confident he can lead the Browns back to respectability. He's got the arm, but the Browns just aren't 100 percent certain he has the other intangibles to push them into playoff contention.

Weeden turns 30 in October, so the clock is ticking on both him and the team. The Browns signed veteran Jason Campbell as a backup in case Weeden fails this year and they acquired some extra draft picks in 2014, ammunition in case they have to maneuver to find their future QB.

Weeden won't have his top target for the first two games as wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for failing the NFL's drug policy.

ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK: Cleveland's defense will have moving parts. More precisely, blitzing parts.

Horton has switched the Browns from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, one that puts a premium on pressuring the quarterback. Cleveland restocked its defensive front, signing free agent linebackers Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, end Desmond Bryant and drafting Barkevious Mingo with the No. 6 overall pick.

With the Arizona Cardinals last season, Horton's defense had the NFL's lowest opposing quarterback rating (71.2 percent), ranked second in third-down efficiency (32.9) and interceptions (22) and was third in red-zone defense (44.4).

It's a high-risk, high-reward approach, and if nothing else, it will be fun to watch.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Stephen HillAug 2 08:02p

The Carolina Panthers waived WR Stephen Hill (knee) after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament Sunday, Aug. 2.

Terrelle PryorAug 2 07:52p

Cleveland Browns WR Terrelle Pryor took reps with the first-team offense during training camp Sunday, Aug. 2.

Martavis BryantAug 2 04:22p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (elbow) will undergo a procedure for an elbow infection that will cause him to miss the Hall of Fame Game Sunday, Aug. 9, against [ More ]

Michael EgnewAug 2 03:02p

The Pittsburgh Steelers have released TE Michael Egnew.

Tony McDanielAug 2 12:12p

The Seattle Seahawks released DT Tony McDaniel Sunday, Aug. 2. McDaniel should quickly find a new home.

Stephen HillAug 2 12:02p

Carolina Panthers WR Stephen Hill (knee) has an ACL injury, according to assistant head coach Steve Wilks Sunday, Aug. 2.

Sam BradfordAug 2 11:52a

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (knee) has been cleared for 11-on-11 drills Sunday, Aug. 2, and head coach Chip Kelly told reporters the quarterback doesn't have any restrictions.

Stephen HillAug 2 10:12a

The Carolina Panthers signed free-agent WR Paul Browning Sunday, Aug. 2. Browning is expected to take WR Stephen Hill's roster spot.

Brandon BoykinAug 1 08:12p

The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired CB Brandon Boykin from the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday, Aug. 1, in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Eagles could [ More ]

Kyle WilliamsAug 1 02:22p

Denver Broncos WR Kyle Williams (Achilles') suffered at least a partially torn Achilles' tendon in practice Saturday, Aug. 1, according to a source. He may be out for the season.

Melvin GordonAug 1 02:12p

San Diego Chargers RB Melvin Gordon has struggled with pass protection through the first three days of training camp.

Devin SmithJul 31 09:32p

New York Jets WR Devin Smith (ribs) will miss a majority of training camp after suffering broken ribs Friday, July 31, according to the team. He will be held [ More ]

Bashaud BreelandJul 31 07:42p

Washington Redskins CB Bashaud Breeland (knee) is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks because of a knee injury he suffered during practice Friday, July 31.

Bashaud BreelandJul 31 07:22p

Washington Redskins CB Bashaud Breeland has been suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Breeland received a citation for marijuana possession last year.

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 31 06:22p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) is not allowed to use his injured hand while it is healing from the fireworks accident he had earlier this month. Pierre-Paul [ More ]

Orson CharlesJul 31 06:02p

New Orleans Saints TE Orson Charles has been suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Marcus MariotaJul 31 03:52p

Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota went 13-for-18 with zero interceptions during team drills at practice Friday, July 31. He was able to use a hard count to make the [ More ]

Jameis WinstonJul 31 12:52p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston was officially named the starting quarterback Friday, July 31, by Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith.

Junior GaletteJul 31 12:12p

Free-agent LB Junior Galette (Saints) will sign a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins, according to a source.

James JonesJul 30 06:52p

Free-agent WR James Jones (Raiders) is signing a one-year deal with the New York Giants. Financial terms were undisclosed.

Cobi HamiltonJul 30 06:42p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Cobi Hamilton was waived Thursday, July 30.

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 30 06:42p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) has not reported to training camp as he continues to rehabilitate from a finger injury, much to the dismay of owner John [ More ]

David FluellenJul 30 06:12p

Free-agent RB David Fluellen (Colts) signed with the Tennessee Titans Thursday, July 30.

Tyler EifertJul 30 03:23p

Cincinnati Bengals TE Tyler Eifert said he is 100% healthy for the first time since the beginning of last offseason.

LeGarrette BlountJul 30 01:22p

New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount was placed on the Non-Football Injury list because he was not able to complete the conditioning test at the start of training camp. [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJul 30 01:02p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (hamstring) said his hamstrings are fine and that he is 100% healthy entering training camp.

Terrance WestJul 30 12:52p

Cleveland Browns RB Terrance West worked with the first-team offense during team drills Thursday, July 30. Head coach Mike Pettine said several running backs will see time with the starters during training camp.

Trent RichardsonJul 30 10:22a

Oakland Raiders RB Trent Richardson is rumored to being unimpressive with his new team.

Tom BradyJul 30 10:12a

Updating an ongoing story, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's lawsuit was transferred to Manhattan, N.Y., by a Minnesota judge Friday, July 30.

Tom BradyJul 30 09:52a

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has filed a lawsuit against the NFL asking a Minnesota federal court for penalties against Brady to be vacated. The suit alleges that [ More ]

Jake LongJul 30 09:42a

Free-agent OT Jake Long (Rams) left his visit with the New York Giants Wednesday, July 29, without a deal. It was his second visit with the team without a [ More ]

Joseph RandleJul 29 08:43p

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle received strong praise from team owner and general manager Jerry Jones Wednesday July 29. 'We have a player (in Randle) that has the potential [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group